WASHINGTON — After winning big at the polls Nov. 8, backers of marijuana legalization now fear that their movement took a major hit Friday when President-elect Donald Trump chose Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, as his attorney general.

At a Senate hearing in April, Sessions called marijuana “dangerous” and said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

And in a speech on the Senate floor this year, Sessions criticized President Obama for not being tough enough on marijuana, saying the U.S. could be at the beginning of “another surge in drug use like we saw in the ’60s and ’70s.”

“You can’t have the president of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink,” Sessions said. “… It is different. And you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal. I think we need to be careful about this.”

Last week, voters in Maine, California, Nevada and Massachusetts approved the recreational use of marijuana, joining a list that included Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. Twenty-eight states now allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

More than 60 percent of Americans now live in states that have approved medical or recreational marijuana, or both.


The possibility of Sessions becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official promises to set off a debate over states’ rights.

Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said Sessions “has long advocated for state sovereignty” and that he needs to ensure that the wishes of state voters are respected. “I believe that President-elect Trump is someone who has a high regard for the 10th Amendment and states’ rights,” said Derek Peterson, chief executive officer of Terra Tech, a cannabis company in California.

Sessions, however, is another matter.

Aaron Herzberg, partner and general counsel of Calcann Holdings, a California medical marijuana real estate company, called Sessions “the worst pick that Trump could have made.”

“It appears that he is intent on rolling back policy to the 1980s Nancy Reagan’s ‘just say no’ days,” Herzberg said.

Sessions received an “F” on the 2016 congressional scorecard released by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-legalization group.

Erik Altieri, the group’s executive director, called Sessions “a militant marijuana prohibitionist” and said his nomination “should send a chill down the spine of the majority of Americans who support marijuana-law reform.”

Sessions’ nomination is good news for opponents of legalization.

“Well, let’s just say that if I had marijuana stocks right now, I’d be shorting them,” said Kevin Sabet, president of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “This is a man who we know is staunchly anti-legalization. There’s no way around that. Things are about to get interesting.”

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